- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Hiroki Kuroda can't explain why he's excelled at Yankee Stadium this season.
Entering his Game 3 start Wednesday, the veteran has a 2.72 ERA and has held opponents to a .219 batting average in the Bronx, numbers much better than when he goes on the road.
"I think it's just a matter of luck that I have great numbers ... at Yankee Stadium," Kuroda said through a translator on a conference call Tuesday. "But I think one of the biggest things is the fans. They really motivate me during the game."
The Yankees will be counting on Kuroda's "luck" to continue when he takes the ball against Baltimore in Game 3. In his career, Kuroda has only pitched in Game 3s during the postseason, and he's gone 2-1 with a 5.27 ERA in three starts, which included giving up six runs in 1 1/3 innings in his last start for the Dodgers in 2009.
"I think I'm prepared for tomorrow's game," Kuroda said.
The Yankees signed Kuroda to a one-year deal last offseason, and the veteran had arguably the best season of all the team's starting pitchers. He went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and pitched 33 games. He potentially could have pushed for 20 wins, but the team gave him little run support for a stretch.
In his two starts this year against Baltimore, both at Yankee Stadium, Kuroda went 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA, lasting at least eight innings in each one.
"He seems to know how to pitch to our ballpark, and that could have something to do with it. But he's been very good at home," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's one of the reasons that we talked about him pitching at home. Plus, we thought the extra rest would really help him, the couple days, instead of him having to go on his fifth day again. But let's hope it holds true again tomorrow."
Kuroda threw the most innings of his career this season (219 2/3) and enters the postseason having last pitched on Oct. 3 against Boston.
"I don't really feel fatigued, or I don't think I can afford to think like that because I always prepare myself for the next game, and that's what I'm doing right now," Kuroda said. "So I'm just going to do my best and pitch my best game possible tomorrow."
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